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Review: Coming Clean at the King’s Head Theatre

A tiny, talented cast take the audience on a comic and challenging exploration of love and the libido

04 August, 2017 — By Sabrina Dougall

Jason Nwoga and Lee Knight in Coming Clean. PHOTO: Paul Nicholas Dyke

“The rules? What rules? What rules are you talking about?” As a witty, touching and well-acted production, Coming Clean couldn’t be more relevant to a modern audience. The arena for teasing out the tangled questions of sex, love and commitment is staged in a cosy nostalgic apartment (it’s set in 1982), with no major stage tricks and excellent sound engineering.

Award-winning Kevin Elyot’s domestic tragi-comedy is one of two major summer productions in the King’s Head Theatre’s Queer Festival.

Varied in pace and tone, the story of how Tony (Lee Knight) and Greg (Jason Nwoga) choose to celebrate their fifth anniversary is a deceptively simple outline of a play that oozes emotional integrity.

Passionately acted – with life and bite in almost every turn of phrase – the tiny-but-talented cast take their Islington audience on a funny yet challenging exploration of love and the libido.

Although the characters’ interaction with their environment occasionally felt like “busywork” to give them yet another reason to still be in the living room, the moments of physical interaction between the newly hired house-help Robert (Tom Lambert) and others – as well as between the fraught central couple of the play – is completely captivating.

Providing comic relief – and importantly diverting the play’s tone to sobering social facts – Elliot Hadley is a convincing carefree William, frisky and fun-loving next door neighbour to insecure Tony.

Criticisms – of which I have genuinely few – would be that Nwoga’s New York accent faltered at times. Featuring most recently in Desperate Housewives Africa (2015), Nwoga may perhaps be a more comfortable television actor than a live player, seeming sometimes to wait for his turn to say lines. Other than the occasional awkward stillness, his stage presence and emotional range are strong.

With that, Hadley in his other role as Jürgen cannot escape an attuned listener’s smirk at a “good try” of a German accent. However, the leather-clad lover is a figure of such bombast it hardly seems to matter.

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